A diary of my birding activity covering highlights and photos from my birding adventures. Mainly Norfolk (UK), occasionally beyond. I might mention the odd thing that isn't avian, but for moth and other insect news check out my mothing diary.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Shore Larks and Cranes

The temperature was below zero when I got up this morning and I had to scrape ice off the car before heading up to Burnham Overy.  Layers of mist covered the marshes as the sun rose and although cold it felt good.  Cold isn't ideal for spring migrants, but I was after Snow Finch and Alpine Accentor and they don't mind the cold (just in case you think I'm barking mad, Alpine Accentors are currently occurring well outside of their normal range in numbers in northern Europe and there have been 2-3 very extralimital Snow Finches too... now's got to be the best time to find Britain's first Snow Finch).

Burnham Overy at dawn, 20th April

Lesser Whitethroat, Blackcap and Chiffchaff were all singing by the staithe, a Reed Warbler was singing among the Sedge Warblers along the dyke and 3 Whimbrels were in the channel.  A Barn Owl was quartering over the marsh.

Whimbrel, Burnham Overy, 20th April

Linnet, Burnham Overy, 20th April

As I headed to Gun Hill a Spoonbill dropped in to the saltmarsh.  A flock of 139 Sanderling remain on the beach and as I checked the sea buckthorn patch for migrants I heard and then saw 2 Shore Larks coming up off the beach.  They soon dropped down behind the dunes again but from a vantage point further along I couldn't relocate them.  Presumably 2 of the 3 birds that wintered here, though they haven't been reported much recently.

Spoonbill, Burnham Overy, 20th April

Overhead migrants included a number of corvids including Jackdaw, Rook and Carrions Crows in the same flock.  Finches included a total of 4 Redpolls (all singles) west and a few Siskins.  A Grey Wagtail flew west but it was the summer migrants I enjoyed most.  I always feel like I'm only scraping the surface with vis mig here so the 17 Yellow Wagtails I notched up probably represents a small proportion of the birds moving through this mornig.  Small numbers of all 3 hirundine species seen too.

I checked the dunes carefully for migrants, or at least I thought I did, finding very few grounded passage migrants.  Turns out I missed 4 Ring Ouzels somehow.  A Stonechat was along the fenceline and a Tree Pipit called so loudly I wondered if I had put it up from close by, although I never saw it.

Looking to Holkham the Great White Egret was showing and a Cuckoo called.  A pair of Mediterranean Gulls flew around for a bit - an adult and a second-summer.

Mediterranean Gulls, Burnham Overy, 20th April

As I headed back through the north dunes I was looking and listening out for the Cranes, having heard that a flock of 6 had flown west over Cley.  I wasn't in the best position on the north side but thought I might have had time to get back to the boardwalk before they reached me.  No chance!  Half way along and I heard one or two vaguely Craney noises, but they didn't seem right and I figured it was a Greylag Goose or something a bit muffled from the other side of the dunes, and I carried on.  Then I heard it again.  Sounded odd, though still not very convincingly Crane-like.  But a bit nearer and now sounding like it was coming from high up.  Must be the Cranes I thought, as they got a bit louder (and more recognisably Crane-like).  Scanning the skies I eventually picked up first 3, then all 6 Cranes.  High up and circling, but getting higher and higher and drifting south until I lost them over the top of the dunes.

Cranes, Burnham Overy, 20th April

Among the Cranes a few raptors appeared at various points while I was watching them, including a Red Kite.  Another (or perhaps the same) Spoonbill flew over as I returned to my car.

Cormorant, Burnham Overy, 20th April

Black-tailed Godwit, Burnham Overy, 20th April

Yesterday a Green-winged Teal had been seen at Burnham Norton.  I headed down there next although there hadn't been any reports of it today.  As I arrived I could see a couple of guys looking over to a puddle and behaving as if they might have got the Teal.  I couldn't see it from my car so, as they were coming back, I asked.  Yes, apparently it was showing there, though difficult in the heat haze.  With others I went down to where they were watching from.  There were only 4 birds in the puddle, a pair of Teal and a pair of Shoveler, and they were right about one thing - they were tricky in the heat haze.  We couldn't see the white horizontal stripe on the drake Teal but the only problem was that it also lacked a white vertical stripe - which is rather a big problem for a Green-winged Teal!  It wasn't that difficult in the heat haze!  It was feeding with its breast low in the water though, so it wasn't all that easy to see that the vertical bar was definitely missing, but even so I would have thought that the guys leaving would have wanted to see that the vertical stripe was there before going away ticking it.

Anyway I wandered round the loop path in the hope it was lurking in one of the dykes or pools, but no such luck.  A Whimbrel was on the saltmarsh, a Greenshank was in the tidal creeks and this Cuckoo flew past.

Cuckoo, Burnham Norton, 20th April

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